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Monthly Archives: December 2018

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Merry Christmas, My Friends – Both Sober, Running, Cycling and Fit… and Preferably Many of Those.

My friends, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year… from the bottom of my heart, thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for riding with me. Thank you for reading my blog and for your feedback.

Let’s all take a moment to remember, not one of us is getting out of this alive. All we have, just before it’s all done, is our experiences. Make them good ones.

Crossed over 10,000 miles this morning. Only 1,800 of them on the trainer. WOOHOO!

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A Note to My Fellow Genesee Wanderers and Affable Hammers; for Those Not on the Email List…

My friends,

I just wanted to send out a little thank you note this morning, as I choose for this to be one of those days of reflection. I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for including me as a member of the Genesee Wanderers, truly an amazing group of people who get together on a regular basis to enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle together.

My background in cycling followed a long hiatus from my younger years when my parents were cool enough to buy my brother and I each a 1981(ish) Murray Baja 10 mountain bike. That bike represented freedom to me as I rode it to friend’s houses more than a dozen miles away when my parents were too busy carting one of my other brothers and sisters around (there were five of us). I literally rode the wheels off that bike.

1981 Murray Baja Mountain Bike

Jess and I picked up cheap mountain bikes from Sears early in our marriage, but we rarely rode them – I ended up giving mine to a kid new to recovery who had all of his teeth bashed out and was walking to work every day so he could get dentures… it was one of the saddest cases I’ve seen in 26 years. Anyway, I digress…

Sometime around 2001-ish [Mrs. Bgddy] would be able to tell you better the date) I got into running when I started to fatten up after quitting cigarettes. I wanted to in-line skate my way to fitness because I HATED running, or at least the idea of it, but I lived in Flint and the roads didn’t exactly allow for safe skating – not even in Mott Park. I decided to run because Jess had started running with some folks and I figured that was better than getting fat. Fast forward ten years and I was growing bored. I decided I’d buy a mountain bike and do a triathlon. That would shake things up!

I picked up a Huffy from a garage sale for $20 that probably weighed almost a quarter my own body weight at the time and I started to ride it. It was about three sizes too small, but I managed to push that sucker for four miles at about a 14-mph average for my first ride. My first week riding it down to the running club I participated in, one of the other guys remarked that the bike was entirely wrong and too small for me. He offered to sell me his backup to his backup mountain bike, a 2008 Trek 3700. My first ride on that mountain bike changed my life forever. I can still remember the feeling I got on that bike the first time I rode it… I’d never ridden anything so smooth in my life – and so light! My wife wasn’t happy about the $125 price tag because money was pretty tight back then, but she saw how much joy it brought me, so she went along with it.

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I ended up doing two Olympic-distance tris on that bike, but I wanted SPEED and I was gearing out on the 21-speed. I had been into Swartz Creek a few times, having moved there from Flint, and I’d noticed the Assenmacher’s sign a few times. I had a gym teacher in middle school who went by the same last name (he was Mr. Oz for short) and there couldn’t be that many Assenmacher’s in Michigan, so I stopped in to ask if the owner was related. That was the first time I met Matt, my gym teacher turned out to be his brother. The next time I met Matt was when I wheeled in a 1990 Cannondale SR400 that I’d picked up on Craigslist for $400. I’d gone from riding 80 miles a week to 100-120 a week when I jumped from the Trek to the Cannondale, and my average pace jumped from 15-mph to almost 20 on the Cannondale. I loved road riding!

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So, I rolled that Cannondale into the shop and Matt asks me, “Whose bike is that?”

“Mine.” I replied. “I picked it up on Craigslist.”

Matt pointed out that the bike was way too small for me. The bike was advertised on Craigslist as a 56cm frame, at the smaller end for a 6’0” guy, so the internet said, but Matt measured it up to find it was a 54 (the size sticker had been removed). Matt offered to sell me a Trek that he used as a loaner for the shop if I was interested. He wheeled it out and I gave it the once-over. I tried to contain my drool. A very long story, shortened, I took that Trek for a test ride late in the season down Miller road. Next to the harshness of the alloy Cannondale, it was like riding a limo compared next to a Chevette. I was cruising down the road, pushing that Trek hard, and I came upon a tall fella on a white and purple road bike – little did I know at the time, it was a Schwinn Paramount. I hollered, “On your left” and passed him. Ahem…. Little did I know, he was a Nationally Ranked triathlete – and he was only three or four years away from being National Champion for Sprint Distance… and that I’d never pass him again. He got on my wheel – I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “getting on someone’s wheel” and rode with me until I went to turn around to head back to the shop. I almost took him out because I had no clue he was there when I stopped pedaling and looked back for traffic. He scared the hell out of me! That was the first time I met [McMike]. I told Matt what had happened when I got back to the shop, and with a smile on his face, asked if I’d really caught him. Then he explained who he was.

Things were starting to look up financially and after a couple of months, I brought home that Trek on the 21st of January, 2012. Matt had asked me, shortly before I’d bought that Trek, how fast I was on the Cannondale and I was proud to be able to tell him I could hold between a 19 and 20-mph average for around 20-ish miles. I’d read on the internet that that was pretty fast. After picking up the Trek, he invited me out to Tuesday night, to ride with the club. I’d never ridden with anyone before bumping into Mike on the road – other than a few friends on back roads when I did those two triathlons with a few others from the running club (and we all rode side-by-side).

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The Trek changed everything for me. I started training harder and read everything I could get my hands on about riding in a group. Proper etiquette, hand signals, things of that nature. I practiced riding the white line on the side of the road for a month, so I could hold a straight line. After Matt invited me out a fourth or fifth time, I finally showed up on Tuesday night. To say I was nervous was an understatement. What was I getting myself into? I didn’t even know where we were, let alone the route!

April 3, 2012, I lined up for the first time in Lennon. I wrote about the experience here. We started off easy enough at 18-19-mph but once we made that right turn at the fire station, it was on. The pace quickly jumped north of 20-mph… As sports go, It was the coolest thing I’d ever been a part of. I can remember the precision with which riders would come off the front and fade to the back, the whole mechanics of the pace line – it was just amazing. Then the pace went from 22 to 28-mph once we hit Shipman. I wasn’t ready for it and held on as long as I could. Matt fell off before I did so I knew when I fell off, if I just waited for him, I’d be okay. I saw another rider fall off about a quarter-mile ahead of me, though, so I chose to try to catch him rather than slow up. That rider was Phill and he helped me around the course. We’ve been riding together ever since, and I consider him one of my best friends. We did the 30-mile route at 19.6-mph and the main group (what is now the A Group) finished with a 21-mph average over the 33-mile route. How far we’ve all come, eh?! The A group is now at 25-mph and the B group is at 23 for the same routes!

4-12-2012 Lennon Ride

Anyway, from that day on I was absolutely hooked on cycling. I went from 100% solo miles to 5% over the last six years. My wife has gotten into cycling and become a regular fixture in the B Group with me, and I’ve made so many good friends, it’s hard to keep from getting a little misty looking back. When I didn’t know any better, cycling was all about the toys. Once I became a part of the group, I found the toys were nice but toys didn’t even scratch the surface. Cycling is about friends, fun, and Tuesday evenings with 50 other like-minded people spending time together sharing the load. My friends, you have added a degree of happiness to my life I simply didn’t know was possible.

I just wanted to take a minute, or sixty, to say thank you for letting me be a part of. I appreciate it beyond words.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Jim L.
El Presidente

Has Anyone Ever Been Dropped Because They Have Sora Components in Lieu of Dura Ace?

I happened upon a Durianrider video the other day – now, nine-and-a-half times in ten I’m going to close that video down before he hits his first “carb the f*** up” but, for some reason, not this day.

In his four minute and change video he claimed that no one has ever been dropped because they were riding Sora components in lieu of Dura Ace, that Chris Froome could win the Tour de France on a Sora-equipped bike, and that if someone does get dropped riding Sora, it is due to their glycogen levels being low, or not properly carbing the f*** up, and that he could flog 99.9,% of all riders on his Sora-equipped steel LeMond… and my mind kinda shut him out after that.

I did pat myself on the back for making it to the end of the video – the guy tends to grate on me a bit. What if you’re not the great carbing the f*** up Durianrider, though?

First, I can tell you that I agree with him that Shimano Sora R3000 9sp is legit. I’ve got it on my gravel bike and it’s just as good as my 10sp 105 and close to the Ultegra line. There’s a weight penalty, but it’s not all that big a deal.

But question was, has anyone ever been dropped because they’re riding a Sora-equipped bike?

I’d argue yes, but not because Sora components are heavy or because they don’t operate excellently. In fact, for the extra Thousand Dollars for Dura Ace, my 23 pound Diverge would only drop down to 21.3 pounds, give or take. What is important is the extra two gears you gain going from 9 to 11 sp. Those two gears mean you’re jumping one or two teeth on the cassette instead of three or even four. Each tooth means about 5 rpm in cadence. Jumping five or ten rpm is reasonable. Fifteen or twenty, well now you’re likely to be in the wrong gear and struggling to spin too fast to keep up or push too hard on too heavy a gear. Pick your poison.

Take my Venge and put Sora R3000 on it, the bike is still only 17 pounds. Certainly no fatass, and definitely not enough weight to slow me down. That missing gear, though, dropping from 10 to 9sp… that would be a bit more problematic. Probably not insurmountable, but simply more work.

And therein lies the rub to Durianrider’s claims; how much more work can you handle before carbing the f*** up just won’t make up the difference?

Take my 15-3/4 pound carbon fiber everything, Ultegra equipped Venge with 38mm carbon fiber wheels, 25mm tires, and pit it against that 23 pound Sora equipped, alloy wheels, 28mm tires gravel bike and the detractors, the holes in the gearing, the extra weight, heavier wheels, and the aluminum frame become too much to overcome. No joke, the same ride on the Venge and the Diverge, you’re looking at another 50 watts to make the Diverge do the same thing as the Venge. Folks, it doesn’t matter how much “carb(ing) the f*** up” you do, you’re not making that up trying to hang with the 23-mph average gang.

I don’t know how big a percentage of riders I can whoop on my Venge, but I’ll guarantee you, it’s a much bigger chunk that I would on the Diverge.

Pass the bacon.

A Fun, if Icy, Ride with My Friends

I never know what to expect from days like yesterday, as far as who will show. We got a dusting snow the night before and it was chilly out… 29° but with the wind, it felt like a balmy 21° (-6 C) with an 8-mph wind out of the southwest. One thing is certain, as the guy who posts the rides I know one thing; if one person shows, I’m riding.  I can’t just shuck it off and ride inside.

I expected the crowd to be sparse with the cold and the potential for ice, maybe two or three of us. I was wrong. Phill, Brad, and Chuck all drove up just a few minutes to 9:00 – Diane and Mike rolled up just after the other three.

Everyone readied, and rather than stand around in the cold, we got moving, but Brad showed up with his rain road bike so we altered the route to give him more pavement than gravel. Unfortunately, we found out early on, we were dealing with some ice.

One item helped in dealing with the cold; I got my layers right. I wasn’t exactly warm, but I sure wasn’t cold, either.  I have a tendency to dress too light for the weather for fear I’ll sweat… so I go the whole ride just a little too cold and don’t really enjoy the ride anyway.  Instead, the last two rides out I chose to go with a fourth layer in lieu of three – the difference was amazing!  I enjoyed the ride rather than gritting my teeth to get through it.

The ice was enough that we stayed out of a subdivision that would give us an extra mile – north/south roads were bad, but the less-traveled roads were treacherous.  We were slow and deliberate and made sure to point out anything that even looked like ice.

Amazingly, as cold as it was outside, I was able to enjoy our ride, right up until the last mile.  We pulled into the driveway with a cool 23.9 miles – only 50 to go to hit 10,000 and we’re hitting the road this morning in a couple of hours – we’ll have a perfect winter’s day for a bike ride – taking the tandem today!

A New High-End Bike Shop Website

I just happened on a new website (to me) this morning whilst checking the weather for our ride.  While I’m not in the market for anything right now, some of the deals on the website, for some excellent high-end stuff, are simply amazing so I’m passing it along, my friends.

Enve SES Ceramic wheelset for $2,000 (regularly $3,200)
Blue Axino 105 Black Edition (full bike):  $1,500
Argon 18 Radon frameset:  $300
Rolf Prima Ares 4 carbon clincher wheelset:  $1,500

You get the idea – these are some of the best deals on ultra-high-end stuff I’ve ever seen.

Check out the items on sale here.

Five Subtle Signs You’re in the Presence of a Cycling Enthusiast.

There are several hundred different ways to spot a cyclist that could keep us busy all day long and I just don’t have time for that… If Specialized decides they want to pay me to write, well then we’ll talk at that point. Same for you Trek, I spend enough on you guys to fund my own writing! Anyway, not to get too off the beaten path, there are several ways you can spot a cycling enthusiast from across the room.

  • You’re at a cookout party with a person who loads their plate with a burger, a hot dog, salad, and some noodle salad (gotta have the noodle salad!), and some fruit… and they look… skinny. Yes, sparky, that’s a sure sign of a cyclist right there. Sadly, eating like that is limited to those days with north of 60 miles in the saddle.
  • Tan lines. Look for the helmet straps around the ears and under the chin. Then you’ve got the ridiculous leg tan lines and the razor cut arm tan lines from the jersey. Oh, and let’s not forget the raccoon eyes! Heavens to Murgatroid, we can’t forget those!
  • The cycling enthusiast will exude a calm demeanor that will be unsettling to most “normal” people. Fear not, they’re just happy. Really, it’s okay.
  • The cycling enthusiast will have a smile that lights up the room and a verve for life that makes normal folk wonder what they’re doing wrong that they can’t love life like that. There’s a trick to it, of course… It’s the whole “feeling like a kid” aspect of cycling. You simply can’t beat it.

  • Sadly, and I almost hate to admit this, for the first five to ten years of cycling, most conversations that shouldn’t have anything to do with cycling will devolve into conversations about cycling in the presence of a cycling enthusiast. Or bikes. Or cycling trips. Eventually we get a handle on this and can carry on a normal conversation, but it’ll take some time. The one thing that fixed me was the joke about vegans; how can you tell there’s a vegan in the room? Oh, don’t worry, they’ll tell you. I didn’t want to be that guy. Um… anymore. Chuckle.

Cycling has Given Me Some of the Happiest Times of My Life

I was putting together, albeit quite a bit late, my DALMAC photo frame for this past year and I was struck with some pretty good feelings, thinking back over the years. This year my wife featured in more than half of the photos because she rode with us a lot more – especially on the last day. In fact, the last day we completely changed around our normal day – we completely skipped the last 26 miles of the day – we didn’t even make it to Mackinaw City… We did what refer to as the tunnel of trees for my wife, so she could see the unadulterated beauty of one of the best 100k rides in all of Michigan – the upper and lower coastline run, in an out-and-back starting at and returning to the Petosky State Park, heading through Harbor Springs, and turning around in Goodhart to head back…

Then, thinking back on the three previous DALMAC’s

…then all of the other places we’ve been, simply to ride our bikes with some select friends…

Without discounting the truly important things, recovery, meeting, dating, marrying and creating a life with my wife, the birth of my children, I mean the truly important things in life, cycling with my friends and club has added a dimension of happiness to my life that was simply unexpected.

I always viewed fitness as something I begrudgingly had to do to stay healthy until I hopped on my first adult bike at 41-years-old.  I don’t bother worrying about “fitness” anymore, fitness comes naturally with my hobby.

And that’s as good as it gets.